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A Future for the Young: Positive Options for Helping Middle Eastern Youth Escape the Trap of Radicalization

IMEY Conference: "A Future for the Young: Positive Options for Helping Middle Eastern Youth Escape the Trap of Radicalization"

Presenters included: Tore Bjørgo, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and Norwegian Police University College; Petter Nesser, Norwegian Defense Institute; Sharon Curcio, Military Intelligence Technician; John Horgan, University of St. Andrews, Scotland; Paul Dercon, AIVD; Cheryl Benard, RAND; Ed O'Connell, RAND; Jonathan Powers, War Kids Relief Project, Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation. Mounzer Fatfat, Ministry of the Interior, Iraq; Michael Taarnby, Ministry of Justice, Denmark; Aida B. Balsano, Tufts University, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development; Susie Kay, Hoop Dreams; Michael D. Wiatrowski, National Center for Education Statistics.

September 2005 — This working conference explored the hypothesis that youth recruitment into jihadist extremist groups can in part be viewed as a subset of broader youth vulnerability to fringe movements, such as left wing terrorism, the neo-Nazi movement, street gangs and cults.

It surveyed some of the things we have learned about these other phenomena and considered their applicability to the case of jihadist recruitment.

Specifically, it considered:

  • What motivates young people to join radical fringe movements? Which kinds of young people seem especially vulnerable? What personal needs and hopes are addressed by such groups?
  • Are there phases of membership during which attachment is stronger/weaker? What do we know about the composition and psychology of radical cells and groups?
  • Under what circumstances does an individual's loyalty to the extremist group falter? How can this process be encouraged and facilitated? What kinds of support do individuals need, once they decide to withdraw and return to mainstream society?
  • What competitive alternatives might prevent young people from being drawn into these movements in the first place?
  • In the minds of young people, what kinds of things diminish the appeal and glamour of radical engagement? In examining radical propaganda vehicles and recruitment messages, what inconsistencies do we find that can be expanded and exploited?
  • In troubled social and political circumstances, what resources within families and communities can be mobilized to prevent the radicalization and support the healthy development/reintegration of its young people?

The presentations and the discussion focused on three contemporary cases: Diaspora radicalization, jihadist recruitment in the Islamic world, and the Iraqi insurgency. They drew on previous and additional cases, including inner city street gangs, the Baader Meinhof gang, the IRA and others. The attendees' presentations will become available shortly at this location.

More Information:

Working Paper IMEY Project on Deradicalization